How to anonymously interact with a Canadian prisoner?
August 15, 2014 6:25 AM   Subscribe

An acquaintance died suddenly. All of their possessions were willed to their SO, who is currently incarcerated. How to proceed?

The deceased person's family wants to honour their will, and deliver the possessions to the SO upon release- but they aren't sure which prison the SO is in, or for how much longer (probably in Ontario, possibly 1-2 more years, but this isn't confirmed). The family has never met the SO, and would prefer not to establish personal contact in any way.

The willed items include musical instruments, a used car, clothing, papers, sentimental items, and basic apartment furnishings; this could provide a helpful fresh start upon the SO's release. If the items were sold now, they'd probably net $2K at the most, although they were likely worth about $5K when purchased.

So far, trying to anonymously contact the SO has failed. Unfortunately, this means the SO might not even know that their partner has died (although they may have learned through other channels). The SO's listed lawyer has not returned calls to even confirm that they do indeed represent this person. The family member who moved and stored the items is now out-of-pocket more cash than she can spare, and logistically unable to store the items much longer.

Some questions:
What's the best way to find information about the SO?
How to broker this transaction with no direct contact between family and SO?
Is there some established and economical way to store/deliver items for incarcerated people in Ontario?
If the SO cannot be reached soon, the family member may need to sell the largest and most valuable assets, recoup her moving & storage costs, then hold the rest of the cash for the SO- but there's a concern that the SO will be upset at the loss of the items, or question their diminished resale value... any thoughts on this potential plan?
Any advice on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Does the family have access to the deceased person's facebook or other social media accounts? Could they possibly contact friends to ask about the status of the incarcerated SO, or have intermediaries do this? Beyond that this older thread suggests sending a number of letters to area prisons addressed to him, you can determine where he is by either getting a response or just not getting the letter returned to sender, but of course this will take a while.

I can't imagine how the incarcerated SO would take possession of household goods and musical instruments. My suggestion would be putting it all in an economical storage unit, pre-paying two months and putting the SO's contact info on it as the owner of the unit (use cash to make sure you don't inadvertently get sucked into auto-payments for it) and mailing the key along with a polite, possibly unsigned letter to the SO in prison. Inform them of their SO's death, tell him that you've pre-paid X number of months and provide him a contents list so he knows how much (roughly) it is worth to him, either financially or sentimentally to try to maintain it.
posted by arnicae at 7:09 AM on August 15, 2014

Can't the executor's lawyer contact the SO - they will also have more experience in how to find people who inherit in cases where the parties are not in contact? There doesn't have to be direct contact from the family themselves if they don't want to get involved.

If that isn't possible then I think the option to sell and hold the cash is probably best. The cash value of a used car is only going to go down, for a start (assuming it's not a valuable vintage model).
posted by crocomancer at 7:11 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not an expert in inheritance law, but if the property was legally willed to this other person, why does this family have possession of it in the first place? Isn't there a lawyer overseeing the process who can facilitate this process?
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:13 AM on August 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

The executor needs to handle this. Ideally, the executor would retain a lawyer for the estate and this lawyer could facilitate the contact. The executor has a fiduciary duty to protect the interests of the beneficiaries and notify them of their interest in the estate. If the family member is the executor, they could be setting themselves up to be sued by the SO for breach of fiduciary duty.

The family/estate/executor needs to speak to an attorney.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:21 AM on August 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

Have you checked out That could be a good place to find more information about how to proceed, and how to find the person.
posted by mareli at 7:33 AM on August 15, 2014

I'm not an expert in inheritance law, but if the property was legally willed to this other person, why does this family have possession of it in the first place?

Presumably the family is in possession because the inheritor is in prison and literally can't take possession.

If the executor is not a lawyer, they should get one to advise them through this process, and to act as an intermediate, since the family doesn't want to deal directly with the SO.
posted by rtha at 12:47 PM on August 15, 2014

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